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November in Copenhagen, Part 1: Birthday Fun!

I came back from Norway to find that temperatures had dropped in Copenhagen, and that the sun was apparently hibernating somewhere behind the clouds. The weather was gloomy enough that I was starting to lose all motivation to get up in the morning, let alone do homework or go to class.

So Thanksgiving break (yes, DIS gives everyone that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off) came at the perfect time, just when I needed a break. Even better, my brother Andrew came to visit! If I had been on my own for the break, I might not have done anything particularly interesting. As it was, though, I was determined to show my brother all of my favorite places in Copenhagen, and also to visit some tourist attractions I hadn’t been to yet. We had a great time!

Andrew arrived Wednesday morning and was pretty tired from his long day and a half of travel, so we didn’t do too much on Wednesday other than walk around the city a bit and see some of the Christmas markets. We tried gløgg and æbleskiver, and then we cooked a nice dinner at my apartment. Here we are hanging out at a Christmas market:

On Thursday, our real adventures began. We were invited to my visiting host family’s house for dinner, and I had promised them that Andrew and I would make the meal so that they could try a real Thanksgiving dinner! Thursday was also my 23rd birthday, so I was really excited to spend the evening with both part of my real family and my Danish host family, who I’ve gotten really close to. I was a bit stressed about making sure we could pull off cooking this big dinner, though! Here’s a picture of us taking a pot of mashed potatoes on the train:

My brother and I spent most of the day cooking at my Kollegium, preparing most of the dishes from our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. We brought part of the meal with us pre-cooked at about 4:30, and then we cooked the rest at my host family’s house, while chatting with my host “sister” (the 20-year-old one). By the time the rest of the family members arrived, we were ready with the meal! (Phew, we pulled it off!) We had my mom’s famous cranberry sauce, my dad’s famous mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and chicken (not for me but for all the non-vegetarians). It’s pretty much impossible to buy turkey or fresh cranberries in Denmark, so we made do with chicken and dried cranberries. Everything turned out great!

Before eating, though, my host family presented me with a beautiful handmade card (complete with awesome drawings by my 11-year-old host “sister”) and a birthday gift, which turned out to be one of the famous wooden monkeys, designed by Kay Bojesen, which are traditionally given to young Danes on special occasions like high school graduation, etc. I linked to the Brdr. Krüger website above because I actually got to visit their factory earlier in the semester with my furniture design class, and I saw the monkeys being made! Especially because of that experience, I was thrilled to be given a monkey of my own for my birthday. You can be sure that both the birthday card and the monkey are now some of my most treasured possessions!

They even got out the Danish flag for me!

When we had finished all of the delicious Thanksgiving food, there was one more surprise. My host “sisters” had made me a beautiful “lagkage” (this translates to “layer cake” but isn’t quite what I expect out of a layer cake). It was a traditional Danish birthday cake with very thin layers of cake, filled in between with tons of whipped cream and fresh fruit. Truly delectable!

After enjoying the cake, we played some card games before my brother and I headed home, happy and full of delicious food. I think my visiting host family managed to make my brother feel just as comfortable and “at home” as I have felt at their house all semester. They are truly wonderful, fun people, and getting to know them has been one of the absolute highlights of my semester.

Here I am making funny faces at my host family’s cat, Eleanor. She decided to hop up on my lap while we played cards! I felt so honored.

The next morning, Andrew and I decided to start our day with a visit to Copenhagen’s botanical garden. This was somewhere I’d been dying to go, but I hadn’t gotten a chance yet. Of course, most of the outdoor gardens were grey and uninteresting in late November, but we still got to visit the main attraction: the Palm House. This is a gorgeous greenhouse full of fascinating plants from all over the world, complete with a spiral staircase so that you can look down on everything from the treetops! The atmosphere was so fresh and warm that it instantly put us both in a great mood. This visit is definitely best explained in pictures:

After the botanical garden, we headed over to SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), the Danish national art gallery. This was another somewhat touristy attraction that I hadn’t made it to yet. Having my brother visit was definitely a great push (and excuse) to see as many of these touristy Copenhagen things as possible!

We had a great time at the museum, even though we only got to see a fraction of its incredibly huge collection in the few hours we spent there. The highlight was getting to see the museum’s current special exhibit, which was centered around Matisse’s painting “L’Atelier Rouge” (on loan from New York’s Museum of Modern Art).

This painting itself is pretty interesting; it falls into the category (which I love) of paintings whose subject is other paintings. It took both me and Andrew way too long to realize that the rest of the exhibit consisted of all of the real versions of the “paintings within the painting!” This is what made the exhibit really well-designed and super cool to experience. We got really excited when we figured this out, but we had to laugh at ourselves for taking so long to see it. Our excuse is that we were too busy sketching the security guards…

My sketchbook page from the Matisse exhibit.

While visiting the museum, we also got to meet up briefly with my graphic design professor and a classmate of mine, who were also visiting the museum. It was really nice to introduce them to my brother!

After the museum closed, we went LEGO shopping along Strøget, but we didn’t buy anything that night. Then we stopped by the bike shop to pick up a bike for Andrew. My bike is rented (thanks to DIS) from this awesome bike shop for the semester, and one of the perks of renting from them is that they’ll provide a bike to any family members who visit you during the semester, for free!

Now that we both had bikes, we biked back to my apartment to make dinner. It was so fun for me to get to show my brother what it’s like to bike around Copenhagen, since that has been one of my favorite parts of my experience living in Denmark.

Looks like I’ll have to split this post into two parts…there’s so much more to tell! Stay tuned for Part 2!

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